Monday, May 31, 2010

Revisiting a Plein Aire Painting - "Foothill Farmhouse"

As I have mentioned before, I have a stack of plein air paintings done over the last few years.  Most are not worth keeping, and when I get the time, I'll strip them from the stretcher bars and toss most of them.  However on days like this when inspiration has gone on vacation, it's fun to pull one out and play with it a little.  I try to imagine that it was a student's painting and I wanted to punch it up just a bit.
I found this one today and put it on the easel.

I did this one several years ago painting along Highway 160 just before the turnoffs to Jackson and Ione.  It actually wasn't a bad effort and even now I think it works as a plein air sketch.  But in looking at it for awhile, I thought I could see a few possible improvements.  All of the tree clusters seem very flat.  The groups on the left and right edges are particularly so.  Also, as is often the case in my plein air work, the backgound seems too dark, although it does accentuate the trucks of the palms.  The painting suffers from two centers of interest....those palm trunks and the farmhouse itself.  Maybe by graying the background, the trucks will also be slightly less prominent.  Finally, I wanted to break up the severe line along the roadside.  

After an hour, here it is.  the first thing that jumps out at me is the flat sky.  It isn't really as blue as it appears in this photo (I used cerulean blue), but I sure lost the interest that was in the original.  I think the background is much improved, although it didn't lessen the impact of the trunks of the palms.  Actually, I like them.  I was able to de-green the painting somewhat as well.  Breaking up the edge of the road now allows your eye to wander up into the painting.  The painting has a softer feeling throughout with that hard edge gone.  Finally, the trees have a bit more dimension.  When it sets up a little, I'll go back and lighten the sky.  

I don't know that this painting was really "improved" with re-working, but it was fun with a couple of lessons learned or reinforced.  

Keep Painting!


  1. Hi Bruce! I absolutely love your paintings! The Tomales paintings are a treat to see, since I was sad to have missed going on that trip. Your work is wonderful! And keeps getting better! Congrats on your fabulous progress!
    Julie Trail

  2. Hi Julie...
    I didn't even see your comment until this evening! Thank you for the nice words. I appreciate them all the more because they come from someone who has worked so hard and so steadily for so many years to reach become the accomplished artist you now are. We both know how hard it is to make it look easy, don't we!! And we sure missed you on the Tomales trip! You keep Howard on his toes! See you at the next one, hopefully!